Inspiring Your High Schooler to Love Learning

1 May 2001

by David and Laurie Callihan

"Behold, God is exalted in His power; Who is a teacher like Him?" Job 36:22 (NASB)

When we decided to school our children at home, we wanted to raise children who loved to learn. Our number one educational goal (as opposed to spiritual goals) was to preserve the desire to learn in each of them. If they had a deeply felt desire for learning, we knew our children would be able to determine their own directions in using it, with our guidance at first. We both have always had a great desire for learning, and we knew that if we could transfer this desire to our children, they would never lack for things to learn.

Our educational philosophy directly affected our everyday practices. Over the years, we have developed a style of learning within our home that has produced the results we desired. Each family will develop its own learning environment as the years pass. The following ideas can enrich that style and make your learning efforts more enjoyable and efficient.

Developing a Learning Lifestyle in the Secondary School Years

As a student progresses into the secondary years, the role of the parent shifts to that of a mentor. By this time, your child will have developed certain learning styles and interests that you can help them use to their advantage. It is important to speak to the individual in the students, to find what they love, and what motivates them. If you can successfully identify your child's spiritual gifts and God-given talents, you will be likely to have success in guiding them toward a fulfilling and profitable future.

Provide varied experiences for your young adult. Surround them with books, educational videos, and opportunities to learn new things. Go beyond core subject requirements. Integrate the subjects through unit studies. Take every opportunity to expose your children to adult life and work. The idea is to make a clear impression on your child that life is all about learning.

We school year-round in our home and never make a clear delineation between daily "school time" and "off time." We do not have vacations from school, though we do change what we are learning. For instance, we tend to suspend core subjects at holiday times and some parts of summer in favor of learning new crafts, customs, cooking skills, or traveling. That does not mean we are on vacation from learning. On the contrary, these are the times when we focus on learning some very valuable skills. These skills will enhance the personal and family life of our children in the future. Here is the bottom line—make all time school time and try to make it all as enjoyable as possible for the whole family.

Capitalize on the natural advantages of homeschooling. For instance, the family is more able to travel. Exposure to various cultures, whether domestic or foreign, is always enlightening and enriching. Experiencing geography is much more valuable than only reading about it.

Our children have benefited greatly by visiting historic sites in New England during our study of the Revolutionary war, visiting relatives in various parts of the country and living in several states. We have traveled to Mexico and Indian reservations on mission trips. We have also had the opportunity to accompany Dad throughout the Northeast and Midwest on many of his business trips. Not only did this allow the children to see and learn new things, it also gave us the opportunity to be with Dad when he would otherwise be away.

Another of our favorite advantages of homeschooling has been the ability to allow our children to explore personal talents and interests. It has always been our goal to facilitate them in developing their own inclinations as much as we are able. Each child has definable interests that can be focused on in the homeschool environment.

We made it a goal to encourage any reasonable vocational desire our children had that was within our means. This encouragement has taken many forms over the years. We purchased a quality telescope for the astronomer who eventually lost interest. For our hopeful veterinarian, we started a dog breeding business (we still have three dogs from this venture). We have bought and built hundreds of model rocket kits (for our budding engineer) and attended countless basketball games (for the NBA-bound). We encouraged the entertainer in our family to participate in drama productions and singing competitions.

The home is a very efficient environment for learning. Homeschool students study at their own pace, as well as having a one-on-one tutoring situation. Therefore, core subjects can be completed in a few hours a day. The remainder of time should be used for developing interests. Our rule was that the children could usually do what they wanted beyond the basics as long as they used their time in some constructive pursuit.

Enrichment through involvement in the arts is another valuable plus. Homeschool students are free to engage in music, art and dance and to do so without straining their schedule. Lessons with professional artists and musicians are often more readily available in the daytime, when other students are in formal school. Many studios and art schools provide special programs for homeschooled students. Those students who don't actually participate in the arts should at least be exposed to them on a regular basis. Take the children to the symphony, attend a drama, visit an art gallery etc. Exposure to the fine arts will enhance any curriculum.

Love for Learning Is Inherited

Finally, if you value learning new things yourself, your children will notice and will make it a value and a habit of their own. One of our favorite effects of homeschooling is that we do not view learning as something you do Monday through Friday from eight in the morning to three in the afternoon, except in summer. Rather, learning is an all the time, whole family, lifelong endeavor. Parents who make learning a natural part of life will have no difficulty preparing their students for anything the future may hold.

In our home we are constantly reading, exploring new places, taking courses, researching topics, playing educational games and anything else we can think of to enhance our understanding. It is a way of life for all of us.

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but to the homeschool child, it is a potent fuel for lifelong learning. When teaching and learning occur in response to a child's natural curiosity it is much more likely that knowledge will remain with the child and encourage further study.

When all is said and done, teaching your child to love learning is the most important part of the educational process. Throughout elementary, junior high and high school and long after your children are on their own, your ability to instill a love for learning will insure that they enjoy a lifetime of growing in knowledge. This is the ultimate educational value you can give your child . . . one that never ends.

David and Laurie Callihan will be main speakers at the NCHE Annual Conference. They are authors of the new book, The Guidance Manual for the Christian Home School: A Parents’ Guide for Preparing Home School Students for College or Career. They are homeschool veterans.

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